In 2012, when Melbourne’s daily newspaper The Age first published “First they came for the Palestinians” by renowned cartoonist, poet, and political-cultural commentator Michael Leunig, predictably and ironically, he was immediately besieged by influential factions within Australia’s Jewish community. Leunig responded stating his cartoon was based on famous lines, with a message both universal and eternal, that “neatly highlight the way apathetic or frightened silence in the face of injustice is a dereliction of moral duty.”
I agree. My initial response to the cartoon was that the conversation surrounding events in Palestine and Israel require and demand public engagement. The onus is on all of us and this is not primarily a Jewish conversation, nor should it be. We cannot be silent. This is a global conversation as well as an American conversation. Be part of it.
First they came for the Palestinians and I did not speak out because I was not a Palestinian.
Then they came for more Palestinians and I did not speak out because I feared hostility and trouble.
Then they came for even more Palestinians and I did not speak out because if I did, doors would close to me, hateful mail would arrive, bitterness and spiteful condemnations would follow.
Then they came for more and more Palestinians and I did not speak out because by then I had fallen into silence to reflect upon the appalling, disgraceful and impossible aspects of human nature.